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Houston v. White

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 25, 2015

ERIC HOUSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK WHITE, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Background

Eric Houston, an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg) filed this pro se action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. His Complaint appears to raise both civil rights and Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allegations. Plaintiff submitted an in forma pauperis application which was previously addressed by the Northen District of Florida.

By Order dated June 11, 2015, Plaintiff's action was transferred to this Court. For the reasons set forth below, Houston's action will be dismissed, without prejudice, as legally frivolous pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

Named as Defendants are Frank White who is described as being a Department of Justice (DOJ) Agent located in Washington, D.C.; former United States Attorney General Eric Holder; the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP); and "all Central Office officials." Doc. 1, p. 1.

The Complaint is a rambling narrative which at often times is illegible. There are vague assertions that Plaintiff was subjected to racially motivated mistreatment and excessive physical force at USP-Lewisburg on February 27, 2015. See id. at pp. 3 & 9. However, there are no specific allegations set forth in the Complaint. As such, the exact nature of Plaintiff's claims against the respective Defendants is unknown.

Discussion

Title28 U.S.C. § 1915 imposes obligations on prisoners who file civil actions in federal court and wish to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, e.g., that the full filing fee ultimately must be paid (at least in a non-habeas suit) § 1915(e)(2)provides:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

A district court may rule that process should not be issued if the complaint is malicious, presents an indisputably meritless legal theory, or is predicated on clearly baseless factual contentions. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); Douris v. Middleton Township, 293 Fed.Appx. 130, 132 (3d Cir. 2008). Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which either it is readily apparent that the plaintiff's complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or that the defendants are clearly entitled to immunity from suit...." Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Sultenfuss v. Snow, 894 F.2d 1277, 1278 (11th Cir. 1990)).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has added that "the plain meaning of frivolous' authorizes the dismissal of in forma pauperis claims that... are of little or no weight, value, or importance, not worthy of serious consideration, or trivial." Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1083 (3d Cir. 1995). It also has been determined that "the frivolousness determination is a discretionary one, " and trial courts "are in the best position" to determine when an indigent litigant's complaint is appropriate for summary dismissal. Denton, 504 U.S. at 33.

FTCA

The FTCA waives sovereign immunity and provides a remedy for persons suing the federal government for the commission of various torts. United States v. Muniz, 374 U.S. 150, 150 (1963); Simon v. United States, 341 F.3d 193, 200 (3d Cir. 2003). A plaintiff pursuing an FTCA claim must show: (1) that a duty was owed to him by a defendant; (2) a negligent breach of said duty; and (3) that the negligent breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury/loss. Mahler v. United States, 196 F.Supp. 362, 364 (W.D. Pa. 1961).

The only proper Defendant for purposes of an FTCA claim is the United States of America. See 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d). However, the United States has not been named as a Defendant in this matter. Second, prior to pursuing an FTCA action in federal court, a litigant must file and exhaust an administrative tort claim.[1] There is no indication in the Complaint that Houston has done so. Based upon those ...


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